Ukennia Arinze, Founder of 8 Lives On
Devoted daughter, mother, sister, friend, athlete, servant, community leader, working woman, Christian, registered voter, neighbor, survivor, and human are just some of the words that come to mind when we think about Knoxvillian Ukennia Arinze. She is known warmly to school friends and former players as “U.K.” Like her mother, she is known for her contagious smile and good-natured spirit.
Ukennia is a proud alum of Carter High School and Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2004. This high school basketball standout always brought her “A game.” After college, she returned home to start a career and to care for her mother. Ukennia joined the East Tennessee State University Community Outreach Program as a work participation coordinator, where she was employed for five years.
In 2008, Ukennia was blessed to give birth to amazing twins, and she jumped into motherhood with both feet. She remains the proud mother of Zyquese Burns and his late twin sister, Zykia Burns. Knoxville knows Ukennia for taking care of her mother, Ms. Pat, and for being a loving mother to her twins.
In 2014, Ukennia was unfortunately thrust into the national spotlight when her daughter was killed in a fatal school bus wreck, an event that rocked East Tennessee, the local community, Zykia’s teachers, and her family to the core. Ukennia used the tragic and untimely death of Zykia (“Butterfly”) to tell her story. Being able to tell this story served as a means to help Ukennia and her family survive and thrive after such a devastating experience.
Today, Ukennia resides in Holston Hills with her son/family and manages the day-to-day operations of “8 Lives On” in order to continually honor her daughter’s life and more importantly, to inspire youth to stay active and live out their dreams in athletics.